I've been editing the shark photos I took last weekend.
I'd like some advice though, on the order of steps to process the RAW image.
The first step I'm doing, in Camera Raw, is tweaking the White Balance.
Then, (and this is my main concern) that it seems no matter what the settings of the particular photo, I need to add a lot of contrast to give the image more sharpness and depth. Is this usual? All my photos seem to be a bit flat and soft. (Could it just be the lens, perhaps?)
At this point, I open the image in PSE, perhaps play with levels, saturation, crop etc, and finally apply unsharpen mask before saving as jpeg.
Should I maybe do more editing while still using Camera Raw, before going to PSE?
To date I've kept all the settings (contrast, sharpness etc) on the camera itself (Canon 40D) to default, but I set the EV down a step or two, and usually shoot ISO 100 or 200.
Editing levels, saturation, etc in the PSE editor will result in a loss of quality. Doing so in RAW will not. So you want to do as much in RAW conversion as you can.
The blacks, exposure and brightness controls in ACR have the same effect (I believe) as the black point, midpoint and white point controls in the levels dialog. (Except that increasing brightness is like decreasing the levels midpoint, and increasing exposure is like decreasing the levels white point.)
Also, I've found that using the ACR default brightness of +50 was causing my underwater photos to look very washed out, and reducing it restored contrast.
What Dave said. I wouldn't be saving the file after processing in ACR and PSE as a JPEG. JPEG is a lossy format as it is compressed so you lose a lot data and lose image quality as a result. Furthermore, everytime you open a JPEG, change something and save it again the image is compressed again resulting in even further loss of image quality. Save images in a non-lossy format such as PSD or TIFF. I prefer to save as PSD as the resulting file size is generally smaller than a TIFF.
I don't think much of the RAW processing in PS but like you I have a Canon, thats why I use the RAW processing in Zoombrowser, afterall it is Canon raw format so their product should interprete it best? That said I could stand corrected on a technical level, just see better visual results with Zoombrowser. Aengus
And just to add that yes, it is very usual for RAW files to look flat, washed out and not very sharp right out of the camera. I've not used the software you're using but in Lightroom you can 'preset' various things so that when you import photos they immediately have a certain amount of processing done on them (auto contrast etc) to at least give a starting point for further processing.